The First Dish Giada De Laurentiis Remembers Making

Food has been important to Giada De Laurentiis since she was a child. She grew up going to big, hours-long Sunday lunches that her grandfather Dino would host. 

Before Dino De Laurentiis' long and illustrious career in the film industry, he spent some time helping with the family business in Naples, Italy. His parents ran a pasta factory, and his mother also sold homemade pizzas and sauces. This experience contributed to Dino's lifelong love of food. Later on in life, Neapolitan-style pizza was on regular rotation at those family meals he organized, and making and eating margherita pizza became one of the very first childhood memories Giada has of preparing food herself.

Unlike many small children, five-year-old Giada did not just dump every topping in sight onto her build-your-own pizza — even though her grandfather gave the kids the freedom to do so. Instead, she carefully observed how he made his pizzas before attempting to make her own with the same attention to detail.

What is Neapolitan-style pizza?

While Giada De Laurentiis fondly remembers eating simple margherita pizzas as a child — which include nothing more than tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil — the chef, restaurateur, and television personality has been known to mix it up with toppings like butternut squash and mushrooms, thinly-sliced potatoes and black olives, or fresh corn and crumbled Italian sausage.

The Neapolitan-style pizzas that she grew up with, however, would not typically be seen with the creative topping combinations she has dreamed up throughout her career. In fact, to officially be considered pizza napolitana by the governing body Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the pizza cannot have much more than what a classic margherita pie entails. 

However, unofficial Neapolitan-style pizzas can be much more varied, but the crust should always be thin, soft, and relatively small in diameter. After being cooked briefly at a very high temperature, a good Neapolitan pizza crust develops tasty charred bubbles along the edges and an enticing chew.

How to make your own homemade pizza memories

You don't have to spend hours preparing everything from scratch the way that Giada De Laurentiis' grandfather did for a memorable build-your-own pizza experience with the family. Whipping up a homemade dough is a great option, but you can also purchase a pre-made dough at the supermarket. And, you can ask if your local pizzeria will sell you a portion of their dough to-go — many restaurants will happily do so.

For a simple pizza sauce, you could go with De Laurentiis' no-cook recipe that combines canned whole tomatoes, olive oil, salt, fresh basil, and a touch of raw garlic; or you can simply buy your favorite pre-made jar of sauce. Next, set up an array of quick toppings like pepperoni, prosciutto, or salami and plenty of melty mozzarella cheese. Make sure to drain any jarred ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, olives, or artichoke hearts well so that they don't make your pizza soggy. For the same reason, raw vegetables should be diced small or sliced thin.

While going easy on the toppings ensures even cooking and better structural integrity, take a page from Dino De Laurentiis' book, and let the kids get creative. If their pizzas end up messy, they will still be excited that they made something themselves. Even if you took a semi-homemade route, finishing with a spoonful of Giada De Laurentiis' favorite spicy chili paste, a drizzle of good olive oil, a shower of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or an ample amount of fresh basil is always a special touch.